Rapid Color Guides
The Field Museum has developed excellent rapid color guides to plants and animals of the Chicago Region. Download one or all and see what you can find and learn more about in the forest preserves.
Which plants are blooming now? View our bloom calendar to find out.
Spring Wildflower Guide
Spring means ephemeral wildflowers! These early wildflowers are here and gone during April and May. Take this handy Spring Wildflower Booklet (2013) with you to the woods and see how many you can find!
This very interesting and informative study from the Ohio State University focuses on coyotes living in Cook County. Find out more about these animals by reading this document.
There are some surprising and amazing living things in our Forest Preserves. Here are some of our favorites:
These playful members of the weasel family were once extirpated from Cook County and most of Illinois. Thanks to an IDNR recovery project, improvement in water quality in local waterways, they’re now making a comeback.
Black Crowned Night Heron
This attractive heron forages by night for fish, amphibians and invertebrates. It’s endangered in the state of Illinois but can be found nesting in colonies in the Calumet region and other parts of Cook County.
Blue Spotted Salamander
What’s black with turquoise spots and lives in a forest preserve near you? It’s the blue spotted salamander. If grabbed by a predator, it can leave its wriggling tail behind to distract the attacker while it makes its escape. Don’t worry; it will grow back.
A keystone species of local woods, white oaks are a major food source for literally thousands of species of birds, mammals and insects. It’s also the state tree of Illinois.
The amazing compass plant can put up a flower stalk that’s taller than you! Its tough leaves are oriented with their blades running north/south. This allows the plant to maximize exposure to sunlight while minimizing evaporation.
Eastern White Fringed Orchid
Threatened and endangered species aren’t just found in the Amazon Rainforest or the savannas of Africa. Several populations of the federally threatened Eastern White Fringed Orchid survive in Cook County. Volunteers pollinate them by hand to ensure their survival.